What does pet health look like this month?
Welcome to the September edition of our ‘We Are One Health’ pet owner blog series for 2019, aimed at exploring and raising awareness on a whole host of topics related to our companion animals.
In September, to coincide with National Eye Health Week, we will we be looking into how to keep your pet’s eyes healthy. Much like with humans, eye problems can have a significant effect on your pet and it is therefore extremely important to keep on top of your pet’s eye health.
Causes of eye problems with pets
Pets can develop eye problems for many different reasons and thankfully, most tend to be minor. This being said it is always extremely important to take your pet to the vet if you spot any changes with their eyes, as eye issues can worsen quickly if appropriate treatment isn’t started as soon as possible. In worst case scenarios, these issues can create ulcers that can lead to problems with vision and eye loss.
The most common conditions that can affect the eyes, are allergies, conjunctivitis or cherry eye.
Pets can suffer from allergies, such as hayfever, which causes them to experience sore and itchy eyes, this can be quite uncomfortable. They also run the risk of damaging their skin when scratching or licking at the itch. Medication, change of food or soothing shampoos may be recommended by your vet to help relieve the reaction. Find out more about helping allergic pets here.
Conjunctivitis (also known as ‘Pink Eye’) is an infection in an animal’s eye or tear ducts caused by bacteria. The infection has a number of causes and symptoms tend to include swollen or red-looking skin around the eye, your pet squinting or blinking excessively and yellowy discharge from the eye.
Conjunctivitis is hard to prevent; it often starts in one eye and spreads to the other through contamination. Your vet will probably prescribe an eye drop or ointment to treat the infection. When treating your pet it is important to maintain a high level of hygiene to prevent the infection spreading or re-infecting the eye. The Blue Cross also has helpful advice and information on treating conjunctivitis in dogs.
Cherry eye is an issue with the pet’s ‘third eyelid’, a piece of skin that provides extra protection to their eye and is common in certain dog breeds. Why this occurs is not completely understood but it is often quite easy to recognise, as a pink bulge in the area of the eye closest to the nose will appear.
If left untreated the infection can worsen developing into a ‘prolapse’ causing pain and discomfort to your pet. Once prolapsed the cherry eye may require surgery to resolve the issue. Both PDSA and Blue Cross have some good advice about the condition: if you are concerned, then contact your vet.
It is not advised to breed with pets who suffer from cherry eye as there might be a genetic component.
Cherry eye is not commonly seen in cats, but other conditions can resemble cherry eye, so best to contact your veterinarian directly if any swelling is noticed of the third eyelid.
Eye health in rabbits
If you have a pet rabbit, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that issues with your rabbit’s eyes can indicate a variety of other health issues. Rabbits commonly experience issues with their tear ducts causing inflammation and eye-watering, which can catch on the fur around the eye.
What some owners may not realise is that tear duct issues are commonly linked to poor dental health in rabbits. This is because the tear duct runs the length of the lower section of the rabbit’s eye, just above the teeth. If the teeth have grown too long this puts pressure on the tear ducts causing them to become infected. This can be treated by a vet using a saline solution to remove any puss and infection.
We spoke with dog owner Gemma to find out how she works with her vet to care for her dog Nancy’s special eye health issues – read her advice below.
Has Nancy ever experienced eye health issues?
One of Nancy’s eyes isn’t fully formed – she was born that way and there’s no reason as all of her litter mates have two fully functioning eyes. We have to keep a really close check on that eye observing it for any weeping/bleeding, taking extra care if she starts clawing at it with her paw as this usually indicates that she is experiencing discomfort.
The eyeball is in there in some capacity, but the vet thinks it is only half formed so it looks flat and reddish/white. The eyelids open and close as normal for sleep etc and from afar it looks like a whole eyeball, but up close you can see it’s different.
If so, what was wrong and what did your veterinarian advise?
As she was born with the condition, there’s no cause so we can’t ‘fix’ the eye. The vet checked her over every few weeks from when the breeder first observed the issue and we continued the vet checks once she was in our care. The vet sees no issue with it for now as it doesn’t seem to affect her i.e. cause her pain and as she’s never known any different, she just uses the good eye for vision. That is her ‘normal’.
If she does start to experience pain or itching or it continually weeps then the vet has advised that we have a CT scan done to see exactly what is going on in the eye socket. They could then remove the part of the eyeball that is there and stitch up the lids.
Do you have any recommendations to give pet owners who have animals with limited sight or other eye conditions?
Take really good care of their eyes particularly if they only have one as they rely on it so much. Regular vet checks, good diet and good hygiene keeping both eyelids clean with pet wipes/ cotton pad and water.
We are aware that Nancy has no vision at all from the right eye so we try not to approach her from that side or place anything that make her jump that side – she can get nervous if she doesn’t see something coming and it shocks her!